Steve Valiquette on how ‘fed up’ Igor Shesterkin turned his Rangers season around

NHL: Ottawa Senators at New York Rangers
Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

Looking back to January, the sky was falling for the New York Rangers and their goaltender Igor Shesterkin.

In that month, Shesterkin sported one of the worst goals-against averages and save percentages among all goalies with at least eight starts. Despite that, he was sent as the Rangers representative to the 2024 NHL All-Star game in Toronto and seemingly found his game out of thin air.

“You get to a point where you get fed up,” MSG analyst Steve Valiquette told Forever Blueshirts on Thursday. “It’s almost like he decided, ‘I’m fed up playing like this. I’m playing like crap, I feel terrible about myself. I’m just going to go out there and compete.’”  

And compete he did.

Since February 1st, Shesterkin has been the best goalie on the planet. His .930 save percentage and four shutouts in 23 starts is first in the NHL over that stretch. Couple that with a 2.30 goals-against average, which ranks him third in that category, and you have a netminder playing his best hockey at the right time.

Related: Looking back at preseason predictions

Steve Valiquette on Igor Shesterkin turnaround for Rangers

NHL: NHL All-Star Game
Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports Credit: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

In the first half of the season, you would see games spiral out of control for Shesterkin. Before the All-Star break, he allowed five or more goals five times, and he posted a sub .800 save percentage in six games during that stretch.

“It wasn’t that he was systematically playing incorrectly or his technique was off or he was physically exhausted. I thought he was just mentally going through the rigors of what it’s like to be an NHL goalie,” Valiquette said.

When Igor was at the lowest point of his season, he was having pucks go straight through him. Specifically, he would be getting beat over the high glove side. Statistically, he was one of the worst goalies in the League in that area, and since the All-Star break it’s still a hole in his game, but he’s been able to better control that issue.

According to Valiquette, Shesterkin has allowed the fifth most goals over the glove since the All-Star break. Oddly enough, Washington Capitals goalie Charlie Lindgren has allowed the most over that time, which should make for an interesting sidebar in their first-round series.

“I think that’s the hardest thing about playing in the NHL as a goalie year after year,” Valiquette explained. “Everyone’s looking at you, there’s a book on you and if they find one crack, they look to expose it.”

For the Rangers to have any hope of winning the Stanley Cup this year, Shesterkin has to continue to be the player he has been in the second half of the season. It all starts on Sunday afternoon against a Capitals team that doesn’t test goalies too much with their number of chances.

Note: MSG Networks is covering the first-round series. Steve Valiquette, Henrik Lundqvist, and John Giannone will be in the studio. Sam Rosen and Joe Micheletti will be on the call. Game 1 is set for Sunday at 3 p.m. ET on MSG.

Steven Pappas is a North Jersey native who works as a news anchor and reporter at WHAM-13 in Rochester,... More about Steven Pappas

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